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INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts promised to find more protection for Andrew Luck this offseason.
They're still looking for reinforcements.
After signing two possible new starters on the offensive line in free agency, the Colts added another big body to the mix by using their only pick Friday on Illinois guard Hugh Thornton late in the third round.
"He was targeted since we woke up this morning," general manager Ryan Grigson said. "Our grades consistently from the entire staff, you know, mine, even (new Chargers GM Tom) Telesco's, they're all consistent with being a really, really talented guy playing at a consistent level."
It can only help.
A year ago, the Colts pieced together an offensive line that allowed 41 sacks, ninth-most in the league, and dozens more hits. There were times Luck was hit so awkwardly that opponents were penalized.
All those hits sent team owner Jim Irsay, coach Chuck Pagano and Grigson into the offseason in total agreement that the protection had to be better in 2013.
Grigson opened the offseason by immediately signing right tackle Gosder Cherilus from Detroit and guard Donald Thomas from New England. Both could start on a line that returns left tackle Anthony Castonzo, Indy's first-round choice in 2011; center Samson Satele, who was signed as a free agent last season and Mike McGlynn, who started all 16 games at right guard.
Thornton could help in several ways.
At 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, he gives the Colts the size, strength and nasty demeanor Grigson likes. He also adds versatility. Last season, Thornton played left tackle and wound up as a second-team all-Big Ten selection by the coaches. He played well enough at the Senior Bowl that Grigson noticed.
Thornton also helps solidify the interior line where the Colts have struggled over the past several seasons. Suddenly, the Colts are starting to look more solid at guard with McGlynn and Thomas and Justin Anderson, a seventh-round draft pick last year, and now Thornton.
If there were any doubts about Thornton , the Colts even had a little inside information.
"One of the great things about him is that the guy that recruited him and coached him is, Joe Gilbert, is our line coach," coach Pagano said. "So that trust is already there."(backslash)
The hardest part was waiting more than three hours to make a pick.
After selecting defensive end-linebacker Bjoern Werner with the 24th overall selection Thursday night and introducing him to reporters on Friday afternoon, the Colts watched pick after pick slide by. They had given up their second-round choice to Miami in last August's trade to acquire cornerback Vontae Davis.
There were times, Grigson said, that the Colts were tempted to trade up.
But they held out until finally getting a chance with the No. 86 overall selection.
"What an opportunity, and Andrew Luck is a smart quarterback," Thornton said. "It will be the first time I've really played for a pocket quarterback. At Illinois, I always played in a spread, so it will be nice to play with a guy who's a little more equipped to throw the ball."
Thornton played in 42 career games for the Fighting Illini, starting 35 at guard and tackle. He finished last season as the Fighting Illini's best-rated linemen.
He also won a state championship in wrestling in Idaho before moving to Ohio. There, Thornton continued to impress in both sports being named the best lineman in the county and finishing third in the Ohio heavyweight division as a senior.
And Thornton couldn't hide his excitement at being picked by the Colts.
"I love playing football and I love learning the game and being a Colt is so crazy," he said. "I'm an overcomer, I've overcome a lot of adversity."
Indy will have its busiest day of the three-day draft on Saturday when they have four picks -- one in the fourth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh.